Designing the future at LYIT
Conor Smyth is a 27-year-old Monaghan native who arrived at LYIT by chance – but, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Visual Communication and Graphic Design, is now working with the V7 web agency in Dublin as well as boasting a host of freelance clients.
Conor’s journey to LYIT came through a chance session with a guidance counsellor which he says ‘helped shape my future’.
“I was originally in Dublin studying product design, but I dropped out and then reached out to a guidance counsellor, who really knew her business and she pointed me in the direction of graphic design,” Conor told Donegal Daily.
“I never looked back. It was a leap of faith and it paid off, so I guess you could say my career path was also a stroke of luck. LYIT had the best course in the country on paper that didn’t require a portfolio (I had completed LC Art), so that’s how I ended up there. I firmly believe the course is as good as any in the country.”
Conor explained how he ‘struggled’ initially with ‘thinking outside the box’, but he soon found his feet.
He said: “At LYIT we were challenged every day with briefs that forced you to think a little differently. You were rewarded by handing in an assignment that pushed boundaries, not necessarily the most technically sound projects all the time, but the ones that made people go: ‘that’s pretty smart or different’. As students the lectures all made this clear to us, so from the get go we were being grooved unknowingly.”
“Every brand, every illustration, every logo and so on, should tell a story, and it’s our job to tell that story, to visualise it in an artistic form.”
Conor graduated from LYIT with a distinction and won an award for Best Student in the Department of Design and Creative Media.
He said: “Considering I never thought of myself as a creative person and as I hadn’t really accomplished much of value in life up until that, it was a huge deal for me. I felt excited about the future for the first time in my life.
“I never expected much from myself, so I never stressed too much. It wasn’t until year 3 that I realised I could do this and do it well, so I put the head down and worked as hard as I could with a little play and it paid off.”
The course has opened many doors for Conor. After graduating from LYIT, he worked with Ph7 in Monaghan for eight months and moved onto Neworld Associates.
He said: “I learned an awful lot about the industry and design in general, I met some great designers and it was a great place to get start. I can’t put into words how much I learned.
“I worked on quite a bit of branding. I kept myself going with some freelance work on the side and that’s what led me to my current position with V7. It was a bit of a risk considering I had only been in the industry two years.
“Once I changed studios the owner started his own distillery, so for most of the last 9 months I’ve been working on branding, packaging, illustration and web for his new gin and whiskey products.
“It’s not often one person gets full control over jobs like that and especially with such little experience, so I consider myself very lucky. Once I left Neworld I was thrown into the deep end but it was the best thing for me.”
Conor has illustrated book covers and privately commissioned posters as well as working on branding and packaging for US-based clients.
He holds his time at LYIT in high regard for the opportunities it has given him – and recommends it for any budding designers.
Conor indicated “If you are any way creative I would recommend it and it’s so good I would recommend it even if you’re not creative. I always thought of myself as more technical, a perfectionist, and that’s why I feel I produce good design; I obsess over it.
“There are many specialised areas of design. The ability to think differently more than anything is important in this industry and the course was focused on that more than teaching you the technical programmes.”